Critics' Pick

First Comes Love (NR)

Documentary 108 July 24, 2013
By Alan Scherstuhl
Tell enough guys the premise of auteur-of-the-self Nina Davenport's HBO doc First Comes Love, and at least a couple will confirm through their reactions just why First Comes Love matters. The inevitable carping: "Two hours about this unmarried woman's decision to have a baby? How narcissistic!" In the film-- which is wise, warm, funny, open, and interested in life as it's actually lived-- that sort of why bother? is trumped by her own father. "Send for the abortionist!" he cries after Davenport tells him she's pregnant. A couple seconds later, it becomes clear he's not joking. No more narcissistic than Proust, and concerned with nothing less than why the drive to mother surges with such power even in women who have built lives fully removed from what earlier generations would have dubbed proper, First Comes Love is, before anything else, a portrait of a longing so deep that even the commandingly articulate Davenport struggles to put it into words. "I have this biological compulsion to have a kid, and I don't know why," she says. Still, as we watch her become a mother, it's clear she's made the right decision. We hear her pee on a pregnancy test, see her body swell up, even witness the baby plop right out of her, followed by a splash of rich fluid. That image of live birth, so often glossed over by a media that presumes it horrific, here is quick and revelatory. Through this mother's tears and pain, a new self comes squalling out, another regular person whose story, if captured by a journalist/artist/whatever as certain as Davenport, might one day mean the world to us.
Nina Davenport Nina Davenport


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